The Convergence of Technology & Marketing: Time for CIO & CMO Bonding

Convergence of Technologies

Have you run into turf issues when Marketing and IT both claim the web as theirs?

Isn’t it funny how Marketing claims the company’s website as its exclusive domain, despite the web integrating with internal systems – or, better yet, when the website IS the business? Really, leveraging internet technologies – including your company’s website – to move your business forward is about the convergence of both marketing and technology disciplines.

For a long time, I didn’t understand why some firms’ marketing groups were so protective about their websites. It finally dawned on me that many IT groups have evolved into rigid practitioners of controlling information technology resources. Somehow I always thought that those of us who used to avidly work with business users, designing PC/server-based systems while working around that old-fashioned IT oversight nonsense, would have continued to partner with the business to dig into their needs, using technologies to be more successful. Wrong. It’s become evident to me that IT may have earned their reputation as the guys who respond to a business request with:  Just say no.

This disconnect between Marketing and IT serves no one, least of all the business.

A recent article on speaks to IT security going ballistic upon discovering that Marketing had put out a website outside the firewall without any IT overview: When IT caught the site during a routine scan, a quick analysis revealed the site was completely insecure and, even better, exposed the corporate network and ecommerce database. (As an aside, per article, Marketing used default user IDs and passwords: That alone is worthy of CIO or IT Security getting heartburn, if not chest pains. 🙂 )

Let’s be honest though. There’s no comparison to how well Marketing delivers meaningful, evocative information: Marketing is concise. IT is detailed. Marketing is targeted. IT lives in the weeds. Marketing knows how to deliver content and information in ways that will appeal to the consumers of that content. Unless the content is about super-technical information, IT needs to let Marketing do what it does best.

When I’ve seen websites that drown me immediately in details, words everywhere, clashing colors and no white space in sight – I know Marketing wasn’t involved. So, yes, Marketing and the website – they belong together. Architecture, systems selection, interfaces, security, controls, assets – that’s IT, working with the business.

But IT being overly protective doesn’t help matters when it comes to Marketing executing on its mission.

Speaking with one creative agency recently, a comment I made about IT brought laughter about the angst Marketing has in working with IT. I get that – from both sides. I’ve been brought in to get a key business initiative done – and run into that company’s internal IT putting up roadblocks. Ridiculous. But I can work with those challenges: Once the business needs are explained to the IT group, once they’re approached as partners in solving the problem or needs, they usually quickly rally and help pull on the rope.

Why does Marketing like to keep technologists out of the website design – even the architecture? Doesn’t Marketing realize that smart information technology resources can help – and save time?

I’ve enjoyed being cast as the IT geek, too – being kept in the dark by Marketing until it was too late to fix an application architectural design flaw before there was customer impact.

Working with one startup in the social media space, when I’d been brought in to salvage the development and launch of the offering, I belatedly discovered – it wasn’t on the project plan – that the marketing-creative guy had rolled out a pre-registration site to get some advance press – some buzz –  and interest in the upcoming launch. The draw was that pre-registrants could reserve their “handle” (like @i_jessica). Cool, right?

Yes, cool. Problem was that there was no validation of any data entered on this pre-registration site:

  1. Multiple users could enter the same “handle” – there was no validation that the same handle had already been reserved.
  2. User types weren’t requested/required to pre-register (like “I’m a supplier” or “I’m a journalist”).
  3. User’s country of residence wasn’t requested.

The situation was almost, but not quite, comical. We had all worked together to define the business rules for a new user registering on the site-to-be, focusing on the absolute essential data elements needed to lower the time-to-register threshhold, getting the new user in and using the site.

So, of course, the absolutely essential data elements included a unique user “handle”, the user’s “type”, and the user’s country of residence. The lack of including these key fields – and, in addition, ensuring the quality of the data, such as a unique user “handle” – in the pre-registration site was going to increase scope of effort in getting the pre-registrants auto-registered into the production site database when we were going to go live. Dirty data, missing key data relationship fields, and so forth. Unhappy database administrator type guy, very unhappy CIO- project manager, unhappy architect. And, eventually… unhappy CEO.

In fact, it cost about 3 man months of effort to get this problem handled – and, in the end, many of the pre-registrants never came on board.

Lesson here?

Marketing and IT need to work together, given the convergence of technology with marketing when it comes to internet/websites. The CIO and CMO need to exemplify leadership, bonding and working together for the good of the business, modeling the desired behaviors for their respective groups.

There’s no escaping that flawed leadership impacts the respective organization – and if two of the top executives in the firm aren’t partnering, it will be mirrored throughout their respective functional areas. It always starts at the top.

A CIO’s purview, by definition, is Information – via technology. Information that serves the entire business – across all functional areas. But the CIO must lead his/her organization in partnering with all the business functions to drive the business forward – and focus on how to get the job done. Not on reasons to say “no”.

IT has to meet Marketing more than halfway – and work with Marketing to understand their needs, goals, information needed. After all, IT is no longer just data processing, nor just managing servers, PCs, telephony systems. Any IT pro who is focused on the blinking lights or boxes without thinking about the business, its customers, and building more revenue isn’t going to do as well over the long haul – and may find his/her function outsourced. Businesses need IT to be aligned to the business goals and working in tandem with the business functional areas – like marketing – to compete more effectively.

The convergence of more and more technologies crossing multiple business disciplines will create more opportunities for CIOs, CMOs, and other business leaders to partner in solving challenges; they must bring their teams together to collaborate on how to leverage disruptive technologies, designing new ways to compete and win.


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